THE Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Richard Jackson, who chairs the Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee, said on Monday that he was encouraged by the review of the remuneration package for stipendiary clergy office-holders in parochial ministry and its recommendations.
“I hope it will take things forward. I hope people will recognise the constraints the national Church is under, and that there are a wide variety of stakeholders involved in the process of setting remuneration,” he said.
“I hope people will appreciate that, within these constraints, we think we have done the best that we can. We have put some things down which we hope will address some of the particular issues around particular groups who are struggling, and have pointed to a way that these can be addressed.”
Clergy remuneration was an important part of clergy morale, the Bishop said. “We have to recognise we are working in a very difficult place, recognising that stipends are paid by and large by parish contributions, which are contributed by lay people who have their own financial struggle. We are trying to tread a delicate balance between all the stakeholders, and supporting clergy as best we can.”
Without the package as a whole — cash, plus housing and pension — clergy would have no flexibility of movement, he said. “It does remain a proportionately generous provision, compared with what many people are getting used to in terms of the Defined Benefit. We’re also conscious that, for many clergy, part of the value of their package, especially if they own a house, is the value of the HMRC rules which allow them to designate another house as a principal residence and therefore be exempt from capital gains tax and other things.”
Dioceses had the freedom to set stipends, and could effectively pay what they liked to attract clergy, Bishop Jackson acknowledged. There was awareness of larger churches that paid a differential to their clergy. “But there is no desire among dioceses to engage in that kind of bidding war,” he said.
“I think what we are increasingly thinking about among the Bishops is how we can be mutually supportive, given that some dioceses have more historic assets than others. We are looking at the rules now for how some of those assets might be redistributed between dioceses, to even up the playing fields.”
The scope of the review had not extended to examining the comparative workload of, say, an archdeacon and the vicar of a multi-parish benefice, and the parochial clergy surveyed believed that they should all be paid roughly the same.
The Covid crisis had been deeply unsettling for many, the Bishop said. “In my own diocese, I am looking to lead us into a period of reflection and, I think, rest, before launching forth into some great strategy.
“We are recognising the sacrifices and the huge adjustments clergy have had to make over a very short period of time. The message I hope they are hearing loud and clear from their congregations and senior staff teams is how appreciative and grateful we are for the extraordinary and wonderful work that they do to sustain the Church.”